Monday Movie: The Dreamers, by David Bax
Despite being set amidst–and heavily concerned with–the student riots in Paris of 1968, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is not so much a movie of ideas as it is a movie about people having ideas and what that means to young adults coming into their own in more ways than one. The film’s characters spend so much time either talking or fucking their way into a better understanding of themselves, it often comes across like an NC-17 version of a Richard Linklater movie. If the characters sometimes make you roll your eyes with their bold declarations and self-conscious iconoclasm, that’s okay. That’s not the movie, that’s just the way young people are sometimes. And Bertolucci captures it beautifully.
Michael Pitt stars as Matthew, an American student in Paris. After meeting twins Isabelle (Eva Green) and Théo (Louis Garrel), with whom he bonds over a shared passion for cinema, he begins cohabitating with the uncomfortably close siblings and eventually starting up a sort of relationship with Isabelle, to the consternation of Théo. Along with John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Larry Clark’s Bully, this was one of the films that established Pitt as a daring arthouse mainstay of the 2000s. More importantly, though, The Dreamers is the film debut of Eva Green, whose intense presence threatens to burn through the celluloid, just as it has in every role since.
The Dreamers is a mosaic of heady dialogue, graphic sex and a liberal use of classic film clips. Bertolucci shuffles the order of these elements until there are no lines between them. Art, sex, politics, etc…. They are all just self-expression, even if they are a little bit embarrassing. And what better time to be embarrassing than your early twenties?